In my last post I said that you definitely do not have to worry about:

  • The quality of school snacks and lunches.
  • Producing the perfect lunchbox.

I heard from a lot of people who do not agree with me. (That’s OK. Anything that promotes dialogue is a good thing!) But I think there were some misunderstandings.

First, let me clarify what I’m not saying.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t send a healthy lunch, or that you ought to send a junk-filled lunch. I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t advocate for an upgrade in the quality of food that schools serve.

I’m saying something much more subtle. And it’s a mindshift.

1) The pressure many parents feel to pack über-healthy school lunches is counterproductive.

Especially if their children won’t eat it, or it messes up the famiy dynamic, or it’s way too stressful. Who needs more stress?

2) The habits that translate nutrition into behavior—proportion, variety, and moderation—are important to think about.

And, these habits are more important to think about than the quality of any one meal. (Even if that one meal happens every day.)

Also, you can teach your kids these habits without resorting to quinoa or lentil sprouts. You can even teach them using food (and I use that term lightly) from the bottom of the barrel (Pop Tarts: I’m talking to you.)

3) Good nutrition follows (eventually) when you focus on teaching proportion, variety, and moderation.

This is not a “throw your hands up in the air and give up approach.” It’s a teaching approach that focuses parents’ attention on shaping behavior, not on fixing food.

And, it’s the only way to move kids who aren’t stellar eaters towards healthy eating habits. For more on how to do this read Preschool and Pop Tarts.

So, send in any kind of lunch that you like. But, make sure you…

  • Vary what you send from day-to-day. This teaches variety and lays the foundation for new food acceptance.
  • Talk to your children about how sub-par foods fit into their day. This includes teaching them how to make choices about what they eat. This teaches proportion.
  • Work with your children to get portion size right so they don’t get in the habit of either undereating or overeating. This teaches moderation.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~